Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fair And Balanced On Climate Change

The second worst tornado in American history. In April, a record tornado outbreak for a four-day period, including more in one 24-hour period than ever before. A spate of wildfires in Texas sparked by the worst drought in nearly a century in the state. Since March, record flooding or lake levels in 25 locations in ten states. On track for the greatest number of billion dollar weather disasters in American history. Severe thunderstorms, hailstorms, floods, tornado elsewhere in the world.

You'd almost think that this is an (arguably) unprecedented run of extreme weather spurred by a change in the climate. If so, you wouldn't be a member of the school board in one district in California:

Before Los Alamitos High School science teachers can tackle topics such as global warming, they will have to demonstrate to the school board that the course is politically balanced.

A new environmental science course prompted the Los Alamitos Unified School District on Tuesday to rewrite its policy for teaching controversial subject matter. Concerned that "liberal" faculty members could skew lessons on global warming, the board of education unanimously voted to make teachers give an annual presentation on how they're teaching the class.

“I believe my role in the board is to represent the conservative voice of the community and I’m not a big fan of global warming,” said board member Jeffrey Barke, who led the effort. “The teachers wanted [the class], and we want a review of how they are teaching it.”

The high school will begin offering an advanced-placement environmental science course next fall. Based on demand elsewhere in California, district officials expect it to be popular—more than 15,000 public school students enrolled in the class in 2008-09.

Although there is a consensus among scientists, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, that global climate change exists, the board of education said the topic is controversial enough to require a change in the district's policy.

The new class will be the first for which district teachers must prove political balance to the school board.

“Most teachers are left to center, and if we leave it to teachers to impose their liberal views, then it would make for an unbalanced lesson,” Barke said. “Some people believe that global warming is a crock of crap, and others are zealots.”

The course also covers topics such as population dynamics, evolution and biodiversity, pollution, ozone depletion and human health and toxicity.

“We define a topic to be controversial if it has more than one widely held view,” said Assistant Superintendent Sherry Kropp, who will take the district's helm when Superintendent Gregory Franklin steps down at the end of the school year. “There are many issues regarding the environment that have become politicized these days and we want kids to be exposed to all sides.”

Why limit this 'fair and balanced' approach to the environment? The possibilities are endless. Why not "expose the kids to all sides" of the cancer controversy?

In 1997, in depositions taken as part of the class-action lawsuit numerous states filed against major tobacco companies, Alexander Spears, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lorillard Tobacco Company, said "I don't it(smoking) has been proven to cause lung cancer. Dr. Frank Colby, scientist and researcher with RJ Reynolds, denied smoking causes lung cancer and contended "allegations of the connection between smoking and health are a matter of controversy."

And these guys were under oath, unlike the people who still maintain that Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S.A.

True, in neither case has it been scientists making the claims. But the Los Alamitos school superintendent referred to "more than one widely held view" rather than "more than one widely held view among scientists" or among "people without an ax to grind." It matters little, then, that (graph, below, from Skeptical Science)

And those two(2) pale guys (gals) are undecided!

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